Women’s Empowerment celebrates first year of paid training program for homeless women

Women's Empowerment's Get A Job Kit paid training program

Thirty women once homeless can now add Women’s Empowerment’s paid job training program and small business, The Get A Job Kit, to their resumes as the program celebrates its first anniversary this month. The Get A Job Kit is the only paid job training program designed specifically for women who were recently homeless. Seventy percent are now employed.

“These women had some of the toughest barriers to employment, but they were able to earn while they learned, so they would not fall back into homelessness as they worked to gain new skills,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, Women’s Empowerment. “Too often women who are homeless must turn down necessary job training because it is unpaid and they are unable to pay their bills. Thanks to this program, nearly three quarters of the participants now have a stable home and are employed.”

The Get A Job Kit was launched under Women’s Empowerment’s name in April 2014 after the business was donated by local entrepreneur Shirley Willey who had created and run the business for nearly 25 years. The business trains graduates of Women’s Empowerment’s initial eight-week job-readiness program in the production, customer service, quality assurance, shipping and receiving industries. The program includes four-week paid training sessions, including education and hands-on training. Trainees assemble the Get A Job Kits to send to customers and receive training on safety, conflict resolution, and personal and professional boundaries. In the first year, trainees sold more than 5,000 kits.

“I’m a veteran, and I was homeless for a year and out of work for 10 years,” said Katherine Carter, one of the first four graduates of The Get A Job Kit paid training program. “Having a job reminds me that I’m worth something. I want to be a standup person in this community, so it’s good to be back in the workforce. This is just the beginning.”

The Get A Job Kit is designed to complement existing job-readiness programs and features more than a dozen tools and hundreds of practical tips. Current customers include U.S. military organizations around the country that are helping veterans transition into the civilian sector, technical schools and community colleges preparing students to face a competitive job market, employment counselors helping at-risk youth turn their lives around, and CalWORKS and other Welfare to Work programs empowering mothers to become self- reliant. The Get A Job Kit has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and CNBC, and in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. For more information or to purchase The Get a Job Kit, visit www.getajobkit.com.

“Our trainees have taken such pride in this product because they know it’s helping people who are trying to build or rebuild their lives, and they can really identify with that,” Willey said. “I’m so proud of what these women have done. They have set a high standard for excellence and integrity. I hope the community supports this program.”

Prior to donating the business, Willey was a long-time volunteer with Women’s Empowerment’s eight-week job-readiness program for women who are homeless, and she donated a Get A Job Kit to every woman who went through the Women’s Empowerment program.

Women’s Empowerment graduate and former Get A Job Kit trainee Lisa Costabile touted the benefits she received from her own Get A Job Kit. “It comes with a list of the best job search websites and a log you can use to track applications sent, contacts made and more,” she said. “When someone calls, you need to know what application they’re calling about. The kit is really useful.”

Congresswoman Doris Matsui toured the program last year after honoring Women’s Empowerment with the inaugural Women’s Appreciation Award for Organization of the Year.

“Women’s Empowerment provides a welcoming and safe environment for homeless women, empowering them to make the changes needed to obtain jobs, stable housing, and make healthy choices for themselves and their children,” Matsui said. “I enjoyed touring Women’s Empowerment and seeing firsthand the programs they offer and the women they help. I also had the opportunity to speak with a graduate about her experience and her path to self-sustainability. She now has a good home, a great job and gives back by helping others. The good work being done by Women’s Empowerment is evident in the results of those they have helped.”

The Get A Job Kit training program is one part of Women’s Empowerment’s comprehensive job-readiness program. In the initial eight-week program, homeless women receive free onsite child care in the child development center and transportation assistance. Each woman works with a master’s level social worker to address her root causes of homelessness and attends classes on job readiness, confidence building and empowerment, taught almost exclusively by volunteers from the Sacramento area. She receives health services onsite and is connected to additional health services in the community. She is then able to implement changes that lead to a healthy body, safe home and steady paycheck.

Graduates of the program can receive customized services for as long as they need to ensure they continue to have long-term success. Graduates can access this program at any point during their lives when they need additional training or assistance. The program includes paid job training, online certifications, counseling with a social worker, GED preparation, job development, access to a professional clothing closet, financial literacy classes and matched savings accounts.

Women’s Empowerment offers the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The 2014 Organization of the Year has graduated 1,223 homeless women and their 2,648 children. Last year, 89 percent of graduates found homes and 88 percent found jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes and support services to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment is funded solely through private donations from the community. To donate online: www.womens-empowerment.org.